Once voted the nation’s number one favourite musical, Grease shows no sign of losing popularity, with a packed out first night at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford. Although audience members seem to ultimately come away happy, the show is unimaginative, unprofessional and far from the hit film that brought Grease its acclaim.
It’s your classic boy meets girl story. Teenagers Danny and Sandy fall in love and are torn apart, only to be reunited when Sandy transfers to Danny’s school. In an attempt to keep up with his ‘cool boy’ image, he pretends to not care, yet after weeks of to-ing and fro-ing, the pair end up together. Throw in a potential teenage pregnancy, a teen angel appearance and a high school dance and you’ve got the usually entertaining story behind Grease.
Differing slightly from the film’s plot, the stage show’s book is questionable at times. Long sections of dialogue are seemingly written just for cheap gags and it highlights further the ludicrous decisions Sandy makes to continuously win Danny back. Luckily you’re still greeted with your favourite cheesy tunes. The band may be one of the saving graces of the show but the soundtrack is still let down by dubious vocals, namely from the shows ‘stars’.
Tom Parker, of The Wanted fame, is just not built for musical theatre. Vocally he just about blends in with the group numbers but when left to his own devices he is shaky at best and regularly out of tune. There are glimmers of acting potential but he’s not a Danny Zuko by any stretch.
She may be known for her acting but for Louisa Lytton this is her downfall, with a flat rendition of There are Worse Things I Could Do and a Rizzo that seems more of a moany teenager than bad girl of Rydell High. At least her vocals are tolerable but certainly not amazing. When there are thousands of capable theatrically trained actors out there, it is disappointing when you are given lead performers who can’t cope with basic theatre craft and well-known characterisation.
Danielle Hope is maybe the only qualified one among the star cast. She’s easily the best singer and her characterisation as Sandy is good enough. There are better performances among the supporting cast but they are let down by bad direction and a poor book. The audience enjoys themselves but there are too many moments where jokes fall on deaf ears and applause takes a few seconds to start up (even from avid fans).
The set is boring, and I hear the same as that from the late nineties production! There’s a decent wardrobe and nice choreography but as with the rest of the show, it’s just uninspiring. On the whole the show feels lazy – it barely sizzles and, despite the short running time, still feels too long.
With the Grease juggernaut that is likely to sell well on the name alone, there is no excuse for star casting that can’t deliver. I could forgive the odd misgiving in production value if the show had some life, but sadly it’s a bland show that’s only good for hardcore fans of the film who want a singalong at the end.
Tickets are available from The Orchard Theatre where the show runs until Saturday 25th November. For further information and tour dates visit the show’s website.